An ethics group submitted a letter to the Department of Justice on Tuesday requesting that it launch an investigation of Heath Hall, the former deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration who resigned over the weekend after allegations were raised about “outside work” he took on while employed as a senior federal official.
Later Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Ronald L. Batory as the agency’s administrator, ending a months-long standoff with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) that had left the nation’s rail safety organization without its top leader. Batory is a longtime railroad executive who is well regarded by safety advocates. Schumer had put a hold on the nomination in a conflict over the funding and future of the Gateway Program, a major rail improvement project in the New York area.
In recent weeks, questions had emerged concerning the railroad administration’s number two official. The Campaign for Accountability said in its letter Tuesday that the Transportation Department should seek to determine whether Hall “violated federal criminal law by willfully filing a public financial disclosure report in which he falsely claimed he would not be receiving outside income.”
The group said Strategic Marketing Group, the public relations firm where Hall served as president, had continued to receive thousands of dollars in payments while Hall was a senior official in the rail safety agency.
In his July financial disclosure form, Hall called Strategic Marketing Group an “individually owned consulting business that will remain dormant during Federal service.”
In August, Hall was quoted by Mississippi television station WJTV as a representative of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.
The Campaign for Accountability wrote that “no employee appointed by the president to a full-time noncareer position in the executive branch is permitted to receive earned income for outside employment. If, however, Mr. Hall was part of the senior executive service, there are some circumstances under which he would have been permitted to receive some income from outside employment.”
The group said it has repeatedly asked federal officials for public salary data for Hall to clarify whether he broke the law, but that the information has not been provided.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said “as per longstanding policy, we don’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations.” A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, who said Saturday the allegations of outside work would be disturbing if true, did not respond to questions on what inquiries it has made on the matter. Hall did not respond to requests for comment.
A Transportation Department spokesman said last Wednesday that Hall had requested a leave of absence in January “so that he could address an urgent family matter.”
See the letter below: